Transit directly impacts an individual’s ability to access services that improve health and well-being, like access to hospitals, care management, healthy foods, social services, and housing.
The connection between transit and health was highlighted at the American Public Transportation Association’s TRANSform Annual Meeting. During the session titled “Transit’s Link to Health, Wellness, and Livable Communities,” attendees heard policies and practices on collaborations that integrate health, active transportation, and equity issues into planning and designing livable communities. The session included presentations by experts from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in NYC, and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Summaries of these presentations are outlined below:
New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Providing nearly 3 billion trips a year, the New York MTA is an integral component of promoting a livable and mobile New York City. New Yorkers and visitors alike use the transportation system to leverage local services and activities. For residents in particular, access to public transportation promotes mobility, which in turn, increases quality of life. Expansive public transit systems, like the MTA, promote economic strength on a regional level, help to foster social equity by providing low-cost mobility options, revitalize urban and suburban neighborhoods by improving mobility access and promoting affordable housing, and provide a sustainable transportation option with low per capita energy consumption. All these benefits of the MTA promote a more sustainable and livable community for residents.
MTA service removes 700,000+ cars in the central business district every workday, allowing for decreased congestion, a cleaner environment, saved energy, shorter commute times, and a greater quality of life. While not direct access to services, these are also important benefits of public transportation that directly impact community health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The Center for Disease Control’s Health Impact in 5 Years Program (HI-5) highlights “non-clinical, community-wide approaches that have evidence reporting 1) positive health impacts, 2) results within five years, and 3) cost effectiveness and/or cost savings over the lifetime of the population or earlier. One of these approaches is the introduction or expansion of public transportation. The CDC has identified key heath impacts of addressing public transportation to include the reduction of motor vehicles crashes, decreased air pollution, and increased physical activity. In addition to these factors, mobility managers and public transportation professionals are also well-aware of the additional health benefits of increased transportation on access to health care, grocery stores, employment and other health related destinations.
The CDC has collected stories from communities using HI-5 approaches to improve public health. You can read their case studies on how transit agencies and public health work together here.